Mars Ho! Jennifer Willis

September 24, 2017 - 6:47 am No Comments

Mars Ho! (Mars Adventure Romance Book 1)
Author: Jennifer Willis
Publisher: Amazon
Page count: 304pp
Release date: 1st June 2017
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

The premise is simple; Big Brother for a Mars Mission.
Applying to join the first manned colony to Mars there are over twenty finalists who make it into a fake Mars biodome in Arizona, which doubles as the Martian land for the contestants.
Amongst the group who move into the “house” are Lori, who has dreamed of going into space, and Mars, since childhood, Mark, apparently aloof but handsome USA version of a Bear Grylls, the annoying already married couple, the Blocks and April, who is pretty much a genius but hides a secret that may get her kicked out from the competition.
Make no bones about it, this is SF Romance, and I picked it up for fun. But what I grew to really enjoy about is the intentional critique of diversity issues (straight binary (male or female) heterosexuals only allowed) who are predominantly white USA residents. But behind this facade for starters, is a person who is asexual. Yet the idea behind the programme is to populate Mars.
April, the genius, had created a matching database to tell her who to flirt with in order to make the journey to Mars. Only 8 finalists will make it. The double entendre of Mars Ho – as in Wayward Ho and ‘Ho’ I suppose an American term for ‘tart’ is again intentionally used to parody the plethora of reality shows. The ‘host’ Gary, is typical of the smiling white-toothed, tanned TV stud, the coffee is sponsored by particular companies, as are most of the products used by the group, in order to finance the mission, and amidst the romance, there’s actually some really clever SF Parody and comedy.
Now, I’m no scientist, but for me, the technical aspects felt possible, such as the 3D food printer in which ingredients are added to make somewhat edible gloop, and the atmospheric stuff and science relative to Mars also felt plausible for the lay-person reader.
Lots of hiccups and accidents occur through the trials, some of them the kind of evil actions you would expect on TV executives desperate to get ratings. But these incidents or technical failures allow for a good dose of human drama.
One line that stood out for me, perhaps it’s a quote, was “life lived beyond fear is a marvelous thing,” and that seems to be at the heart of the book in respect of love and missions to Mars.
Jennifer Willis’ writing style is effectively emotional without turning it into mush, the parody elements were funny and the relationships believable.
Overall, ‘Mars Ho’ was an unexpected gem, and I’m definitely checking out more of her work, considering she has appeared in the ‘Women Destroy Science Fiction’ issue of Lightspeed, a magazine most SF Fans should be able to recognise as high quality.

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